Master’s CX Worlds Louisville 2012

17 Jan Master’s CX Worlds Louisville 2012

A great starting spot couldn't overcome heavy legs and a broken chain.

Finally writing the last race report of the 2011 season though it is 2012. This is the first time  Master’s CX Worlds would be held in the USA. When I first heard this I was not excited about the idea of having two seasons, road and CX,  in one year for consecutive years. Being a roadie at heart, though having a knack for riding a CX bike, I really like racing my bike on pavement more than dirt or mud. Come on it is master’s world’s, how could I skip the self induced pressure, additional workload, and a shot at a rainbow jersey.

Subsequent to the Louisville trip, my opinion has changed dramatically about this event, this master’s world championship. It would be more accurate to have been called the North American Championships, with only a hand full of euro’s attending. Mostly Canadians and US racers filled the fields, none were close to being full to my surprise. None the less the coveted rainbow jersey’s were in the house and given to the fastest racer in each age category.  I also have a new opinion with regard to the UCI, the people in charge of this event. This opinion is less than desirable, enough said about that, for now.

Caveat: Any negative comments about my perception of the UCI at this event, has no reflection on Joan Hanscom or her crew. They have proven themselves many times by running the USGP flawlessly for years. Their roll in Louisville was once again, executed professionally.

So Heidi and I arrive in Louisville and go directly to the Galt House Hotel to pick up my bib number.  When I register they hold a large grocery bag in front of me and say pick a number, this will be your starting position in your qualifying heat. I reach in and stir the small papers around carefully grabbing my number, pulling out 302. I ask, is this number 2 on the grid?  They confirm that it is and say nice pick. I am excited about this feeling I will be one of the fastest guys in my heat and will not have to waste too much energy earning a front row starting position for the main event.

Back in the car and off to Eva Bandman Park to pre ride the course. Entering the venue I can see there is no shortage of mud, go figure since it had been rainning hard all day with temps in the low 50’s. I set up the B bike and head out for a few laps. The course is similar to the USGP track with less turns, and the addition of a longer off camber section, which is unridable. I figure it is about 1k of running per lap in thick pasty mud. I do two laps easy and hit the gas for 5 minutes on lap 3 three, about 1/2 a lap for an opener. The opener is very hard and I find it is faster to ride the slippery down hills out of control than trying to run them. This is the technique I will use during the heat.  I stop and clean my bike, head back to the car and change into some dry clothes. I am ready to race tomorrow.

Now to find our host housing, a friend who is quite well known in bicycle racing,Curtis Tolson. Curtis has been racing Bicycles his entire life, owning more stars and stripes jerseys than anyone I know. What is cool about this is we get to pick his brain, little by little over the course of the weekend, we will hear great stories about races. This will also help keep the race stoke for the up coming events. I must mention Tracy Tolson, who also has a bunch of championship jersey’s of her own. The first time I watched Tracy race was in 2007 in WoodDale where she lapped the women’s field twice as a solo break, quite impressive. The other guest staying at Chez Tolson is Daniel Casper. The same Dan Casper that schooled me at Badger cross both days.

Thursday morning, I wake up and hop on the trainer for a easy 30 minute spin. I like to wake my body up and raise the core temp a bit, making my warm up that much easier for the heat race. I have been plagued with a cough since mid November, having burnt my lungs at the USGP.  The Dr. said when I stop racing they will heal, that I need to rest them sooner than later. I told him that is not going to happen.

We arrive at the venue two hours before the heat is going to start. Curtis has offered to pit for me which is huge, there is huge amounts of mud making bike changes critical.  Feeling good after riding the trainer for 40 minutes I head to the starting area about 20 minutes before the start. I want to do a few openers on the road before staging. As I am riding toward the starting grid on the road I see they have a race staged? I am confused saying to myself my heat is the first race of the day, what is going on? Heading in that direction I see the numbers on the racers are from my heat, then the whistle blows. I am now by the starting grid, though outside of the barriers start asking in a panic if that is the 50-54 heat?  He asks my name, looks on the start list and says, yes you missed your call up, you can go now!!!  I almost said are you fucking kidding me, as I am ripping jacket off and lift my bike over the steel barriers onto the starting grid.  I hop over the barrier on my bike and start chasing. Not only did I miss my start, I am wearing leg warmers, a thick hat, and embro, with the temps about 47F.

Crossing the start finish line I hit the dirt/mud with speed while not seeing any racers on the first straight, swearing at myself I catch quite a bit of air, my bike crosses up and somehow I do not crash.  I hear Heidi yelling go, you can catch them. I am in disbelief having never missed a start time, ever. This negative state of mind lasts about 1 minute and I settle into a rhythm, telling myself to relax, if I do not make any mistakes I will bridge to the main group. I only need to be second row. Finally I am starting to catch the back of the race, one guy at a time. I take a bike change and Curtis tells me I am 22nd, this is great info, which helps me to relax, but only a little. End of lap one and I am feeling good, though going harder than I would have liked. Lap two and Curtis tells me I am now number 12 and I hear Dave and Brad talking about me being 1:17 down at the start, that I have not givin up. I figure with one more lap it is still possible to make the front row, just keep it steady, going fast when I can without hitting the ground.

Lap three and I bridge to a group of four 200m before the sand pit, which is a running section, and pass them at the pit exit. I remount the bike and attack the group. Now having a gap I keep smooth and finish a few seconds in front of them. Dave Towle says that is a great ride, that I finished 3rd in the heat. I really did not add the numbers up as we were passing lapped riders which made it hard to know who was on what lap. I am feeling good about gaining a good spot for the main event bib #5, though not realizing I would never recover from this effort.

On to race day. After eating, drinking and resting as much as I could on Friday, the cough was getting worse and sleeping was not going so well. This is the main reason my body did not recover completely from the heat effort. Normally I would be at 100% after an easy ride day, but today was not going to be normal. The course was frozen solid mud ruts, so in order to ride straight sections without crashing, one must travel on a diagonal line, as not to be caught by a rut. If you tried to ride parallel with the ruts you were going to be on the ground quickly. Again the UCI did not act when they had the chance. When asked they said that the ground would not freeze, wrong again. If they would have rolled the course when it was soft and muddy, a large percentage of these ruts would have be reasonable, while still enough of them to make the course very difficult. Instead the course was dangerous in many places increasing the risk of injury if you crashed on these frozen ruts. The course was now a horse of a different color. Though the same for everyone, the day was going to be about racing the course more than the other racers.

After warming up I do a recon lap, the ground is frozen solid so I add more air to my tires, about 30 lbs. which is really high pressure for me. I also change to file treads to see if they will be less grabby on the frozen ruts. I return to the car because the top layer of the ground had softened as the angle of the sun increased. Now we had 1/8 inch of grease on frozen ground, so I went to a mud tire in the front and lowered the pressure slightly. This would be mistake number one of my day, using a file tread in the rear. My B bike has mud tires front and rear just in case, though the temps are not supposed to rise much today.

Little did I know clear skies would prevail and the sun would continue to soften the course.

Lined up on row one, I remind myself it has been a great season and no matter what happens, to enjoy the experience today. 30 seconds to start, turn up the focus on the end of the pavement section, then the whistle blows. Nailing my pedal first try I shift and dig in with Gunnar grabbing the hole shot.  I grab his wheel as he continues to accelerate. We are about to hit the dirt when Tilford shoots through a hole and is drilling it hard at the front. Sitting on Gunnar’s wheel in third, we are going very fast for the nasty conditions. At the first curve Tilford is carrying too much speed and washes his front wheel, saving it with his right foot, we do not change positions. Through the sand section and down the other straight I can see the damage caused. The fast start has the race blown wide open already with the three of us having a gap. I am good with the pace though by the run up I am feeling lactic in my legs. I am not breathing very hard and think, “this is not good”. then I loose contact on the run up and am passed on the next straight by one person. Passed by another after the fly over, and one more after the pit. I am now in sixth position, having heavy legs and sliding my rear end through the turns. I keep the A bike for the rest of the lap and make a bike change on lap two, asking for less air in both tires. The B bike has perfect pressure and the knobbies front and rear are sticking like glue. Now I feel like I can ride the course more aggressively and seem to be bringing back the 5th place rider.

It is funny when things are not going well, it opens a flood gate of differences in one’s riding style. Because I am not going as fast as I normally race, I am dropping my head, looking at the ruts close to me instead of 10 meters up the road. This is a huge mistake causing me to get caught in the ruts instead of gliding over them. I am fighting the course and make my second bad decision, to ride up the rough run up section. I am two bike lengths from making it over the top when, SNAP, my chain breaks! What a weekend, having to stop and pull the chain out of the cassette so it would free wheel. I shoulder the bike and start running, this is not good since it is about 1 k to the pit. This is longer than Georgia Gould had to run at the USGP after breaking her pedal at the start, for those of you at that race.

So now I have a choice, to quit or keep running until I am lapped. Quitting is not an option and it felt like forever making it to the pit. Hearing Rob Curtis say it is his chain, I remark no I do not have a chain, laughing outwardly. Finally back on a bike, my goal is to not get lapped but Tilford is on a mission today. He catches me before the end of the lap but they do not pull me?  I get to ride the fourth lap with only 2nd and 3rd place lapping me, and am pulled going on to the pavement section, 1 lap down. The scoring is wrong for sure, Randy Warren finished in front of me passing me when I was running. My frustration with the UCI is glaring, they could not even score the race correctly, that is a serious problem in my book.

Anyway, the weekend was mostly fun for me. It was a long CX season with no real mechanicals until now, how could one complain? I have had nothing but great support from everyone of my teammates, family members, friends, and other racers from the Midwest. During the race many people were cheering for me which is awesome, they know how difficult it is when having a bad luck day, but they were still in my corner. I was only heckled by on person during that race, and I will not forget who you are, thanks for kicking a man when he is down.

Now my gratitude and thanks to a list people that need to be mentioned. First,  thank you to Heidi, my best friend, who puts up with my insanity and compulsion on a daily basis, I love you honey.

Next is Rob Curtis for two reasons, the best racing wheels ever, but more for the pit work at the USGP, NYR, Nationals Elite race, and Worlds, Thank you.

To A.L.L Masonry and Louie for the wonderful behind the scene support. My prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time, thank you for everything.

Dave Eckel for the pit work at Nationals, would not have made the podium without you there, thank you.

Thanks to Curtis and Tracy Tolson for host housing and Curtis for working the pit during the heat qualifier. A clean bike was huge as well the splits and position updates. Heidi and I had a great time hanging with you both, thank you.

To Dave Towle and Brad Sohner for making me laugh while suffering on my CX bike this year at the big events.

Thank you to all the people that cheer while I am racing, it is empowering to feel this energy being sharred. Like my friend Keith Lucas said, you do not want to let anyone down when people watching are so excited for you, that you keep pushing harder because of the support, not wanting to let them down.

Now it is time to rest and let the lungs heal themselves, then into the weight room/pain cave for a month, a bit of indoor climbing, maybe a little hockey, and back out on the road bike.

Blessings to everyone, even the haters. You help make us stronger even though you do not realize it.

-Enzo

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